The River Wissey is another so far unexplored East Anglian river.
“While we’re here shall we explore the little rivers?” the Tentatrice First Mate had suggested. Boatwif wouldn’t admit to a Tick List syndrome – but there is a chart on her computer of waterways so far explored – and this year the Cam, the Little Ouse and now the Wissey have been added to the “Boated” column.
It took about 70 minutes and 5¾ miles to cruise up the Great Ouse from the mouth of Brandon Creek (the Little Ouse) to the Wissey on Wednesday.
The Ely – King’s Lynn railway line crosses the Great Ouse at Hilgay – and crosses the Wissey too. Two stretches of GOBA moorings close to the mouth are delightful – and were as pleasant a place as any to sit out the very wet weather on Thursday.
Friday became Wissey Day. The river is narrow, Macc Canal narrow. Yet the water is deep and clear. About 2 miles upstream is Hilgay, reached after passing a line of moored boats on the right hand bank. There are two road bridges, one a local road and one the ubiquitous A10.
Then there are more moored boats and thick belts of trees after the bridges. Somewhere, in the back of the mind, stirred recall of a conversation about the vast number of trees in Norfolk, planted both to soak up water from flooded land and to create windbreaks.
Winding, weaving, twisting, the little river goes, in a mainly easterly direction, with glimpses appearing of a vast industrial site. This is the Wissington Sugar Factory, (history here). British Sugar claims that this is the largest and most cost-effective sugar processing plant in Europe. It’s an innovative business, being the first UK bioethanol plant. Almost hidden from river view is a vast glasshouse powered by the heat from the sugar beet factory processes. Dig into the British Sugar website and you’ll discover that the glasshouse covers 18 hectares and is the largest single glasshouse in the UK. 70 million tomatoes are grown here each year, apparently…
Then, after view after view of gantries and pipes and silos and chimneys comes the sharpest of contrasts, the river broadened to lake proportions This delightful reminder of Staffordshire’s Tixall Wide is bittersweet since no mooring is permitted here.
the little settlement of Stoke Ferry comes into view. There are a few houses, and moored boats of varying shapes and sizes. Did the punt on a tiny slipway indicate the site of the original Stoke ferry crossing…?
Beside a caravan site (for adults only), is a narrow stretch of GOBA mooring and just a few hundred yards beyond it is the head of navigation. Such a pretty river ends in a straight line with a dribble of water through the reeds from the left and from the right.
Despite mooring sites at Stoke Ferry (minimal bank space and a noisy bridge nearby) and at Hilgay (noisy location again) there was a return to the fine GOBA moorings just half a mile from the river’s flow into the Great Ouse.
Wissey verdict: It packs a lot in, does this little river…
Next time, some Relief en route to Downham Market…
(Self correction:The cruise on the Little Ouse is the second time into Suffolk, since the Lark,June 2014, also flows within Suffolk.)
Miles and locks since Bedford: 200¼ miles, 23 locks
Miles and locks back to Victoria Pit Moorings: 209⅓ miles, 127 locks